Scrabo Tower, above Newtownards, Co. Down

I’m starting to make a habit of shooting panoramas from random follies: perhaps there’s a gap in the market I’ve found to exploit. However when the view’s this good, who’s complaining?

I’ve vague memories of once climbing up Scrabo Hill towards the tower when I was a kid, but despite growing up relatively close by, I was never able to climb up the tower itself. Closed for much of the Troubles, Scrabo Tower was the monument on the hill above Newtownards which watched silently as we made family trips towards the Ards peninsula and Strangford Lough. Newtownards was the home of the Lee factory seconds shop and Woolco, an ill-fated Woolworths-owned superstore in the 70s: cue family shopping expeditions galore. In the monochromatic and often fearful 70s, this was the last hurrah of global retail culture before the delights of the country and seaside beyond. I was always happier with a shrimping net and a a lucky bag than a pair of hardwearing brown corduroy trousers…

Part of me could look enviously upwards because Scrabo Tower, made more mysterious by its unapproachability, sat upon a glorious perch above some of the delights of County Down. The rich, perfectly manicured fields around Comber, Norn Irn’s vegetable heartland (as an expatriate my heart beats a little faster at the thought of Ulster Sceptres or Kerr’s Pinks from Comber… perhaps the perfect buttered spuds). Looking further afield, across verdant egg-shaped drumlins to St Patrick’s historic townlands; across the mosaic of half-hidden islands in Strangford Lough, to the beaches and villages scattered along the arm of the Ards Peninsula, Scrabo Tower has stood impassively atop this volcanic plug for over 150 years. What a view it’s had in that time.

Click below for a series of fullscreen 360° views of the scene in Flash, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.